In May, CHOICE made the following recommendations to the Food Labelling Law and Policy Review regarding provenance claims on food labels:
- Mandatory food labelling requirements, including COO labelling, should be set out in the Food Standards Code so manufacturers clearly know what information they are required to present and how it should be presented, as well as how these requirements are to be interpreted.
- The Food Standards Code should be amended to prohibit unqualified “made in” claims and require manufacturers to disclose the origin of each significant or characterising ingredients, or highlight that these ingredients have been imported – for example, “Made in Australia from Canadian pork”.
- A centralised Commonwealth enforcement agency with powers to improve accuracy and consistency of all food labelling.
Although the ACCC can take action where it believes COO food labels breach the “misleading and deceptive” provisions of the Trade Practices Act, the provisions do not meet shoppers’ expectations about COO information for the food they buy.
- The provisions are not mandatory for all foods (such as chicken, beef and mixed meat).
- Neither federal law nor the Food Standards Code require manufacturers to tell shoppers where key ingredients come from.
- There are inconsistencies in penalties for non-compliance. It all depends on whether misleading and deceptive conduct is being enforced under the state food acts or the federal Trade Practices Act.
The Made in Australia myth
These are some of the qualified claims you’ll frequently find on product labels. In the ACCC’s view, they are allowed so that businesses that are unable to satisfy all the criteria for a “Made in Australia” claim, provided the qualification provides more complete information to consumers.
Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients usually means the product was processed in Australia and there is more locally sourced ingredients than imported ones.
- Kirks Originals soft drinks – the drinks are manufactured locally and majority of the juice concentrate was sourced in Australia.
Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients usually means the product was processed in Australia – although the majority of the ingredients are imported.
- Extra Juicy fruit juices. TV ads promote this juice as “100% Australia owned”, yet while the juice manufacturer is Australian-owned, the “Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients” statement means the juice is processed here but the imported content is more than the local content.
Designed in Australia, made in China means the product was designed locally but manufactured in China.